Ruto goes on ‘wooing’ mission as internal friction rattles Jubilee

KENYA: Six months in power have revealed interesting contrasts in how the President and his deputy are managing the political challenges facing the Jubilee government.

President Uhuru Kenyatta is strengthening his hold on his shared administration through quiet networking, while Deputy President William Ruto has taken to the road to propagate the Jubilee agenda. The President’s demeanour is that of an easy-going man, not averse to taking advice from former President Daniel arap Moi, €˜the professor of politics€™. His deputy seems keen to assert himself and stave off challenges to his political space from Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto.

The contrasts have already touched off talk about jostling for more power and influence in the governing coalition, similar to what was experienced after the 2002 and 2007 elections. At the root of the unease are fears the ambitious Deputy President is strengthening his position ahead of the next election.

Two weeks ago, a confidante of President Kenyatta dropped hints that United Republican Party (URP) appeared to be positioning itself for a serious stab at the presidency as early as 2017. This, it appears, is one of the reasons TNA was keen to co-opt URP into a joint Jubilee secretariat that would contain potential rivalry. It has also been cited as the rationale behind a number of key personnel changes in various ministries and could play a role in the trimming of parastatals.

The President’s cosy relationship with Moi and former Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi, a frequent visitor to State House, is another source of unease in URP. Moi and Uhuru have met at least four times since March.

While denying any rifts among Jubilee member-parties, Parliamentary Majority Leader Adan Duale says €œforces of impunity€ in the public service are behind any frictions in implementation of the parties’ joint manifesto.

“To us, there is nothing called TNA or URP,” Duale told The Standard on Saturday from Mombasa, where Jubilee MPs were meeting this week. “We are happy with President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto. Our coalition is working. We are implementing our manifesto,” he added.

Sources report suppressed but intense infighting over public office appointments in recent weeks. Duale, the Garissa Township MP, admits some appointments have generated suspicions, but blames a senior civil servant, inherited from the Kibaki administration of duplicating functions of public offices.

Riled URP

For instance, the extension of the tenure of the Kenya Revenue Authority Commissioner responsible for investigations and enforcement has riled URP, which was ready to fill the position.

Also, during the teachers’ strike, Ruto felt undermined when he negotiated a return-to-work formula with Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) only for it to be neutered by Education Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi, who ordered schools closed. The matter was resolved when Uhuru sat down with Knut officials.

In the current debate over funds for county governments, Governors Council Chairman Isaac Ruto toned down his message after the President dispatched an emissary, Joshua Kuttuny, to negotiate.

While he insists the push for a referendum is still on, the Bomet governor says his body is willing to engage in talks.

It is against this backdrop that William Ruto’s whistle-go whistle-stop tours around the country are eliciting keen interest in TNA, the president’s party.

At the inception of the government, the President reportedly prevailed upon his allies not antagonise his deputy, who had often unsettled them by giving the impression he was a co-president. There is suspicion Rutto’s tirades are being encouraged or tolerated because they help manage this ‘problem’.

Duale, who belongs to URP, says Ruto’s tours of the country are not about his political profile. They are intended to heal the country from the effects the last General Election, which split Kenyans between Jubilee and Coalition for Reforms and Democracy. The Parliamentary Majority Leader says the tours are intended to heal any lingering rifts. Ruto is targeting CORD areas, especially ODM-dominated regions including Western, South Nyanza, Meru and Coast. Comparatively, President Kenyatta has not travelled much around the country.

A nominated MP close to the President has, on several occasions, dropped hints that TNA is alive to Ruto’s restlessness.

“He has privately told MPs and senators to get ready for 2017,” the MP told some newsmen in confidence. He is testing the waters with his tours.”

However, TNA Senate majority Leader Kithure Kindiki dismissed perceptions of Ruto planning to run as CORD propaganda.

“That is CORD politics. We, as Jubilee, are focused on building this country,” Kindiki, the Meru County Senator, responded.

Political fishing

On Sunday, Ruto will be in Western for the homecoming ceremonies of Malava MP Moses Malulu Injendi and Navakholo MP Emmanuel Wangwe. Speaking to The Standard on Saturday, Injendi conceded Mr Ruto is keen on raising URP’s stake in Jubilee coalition. To do so, the Deputy President is poaching MPs and senators from the CORD and Amani coalitions. He appears to have succeeded in luring a sizeable number of first-term legislators from the two coalitions.

€œRuto wants everybody to be in government. He is where he is (deputy president) because of the numbers,says Injendi, a former sociology lecturer at Catholic University. He wants to have numbers beyond Rift Valley to put him in a good bargaining position in 2017 or 2022. His forays in Western are informed by the fact that he can only be Number Two with the numbers he has. He is looking for a chance to be Number One.-standardmedia.co.ke

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